Headless means different things to different companies, so finding the best advice and applying it isn’t easy, especially since there are so many myths surrounding the subject. So let’s start with a definition and talk about the many benefits to prevent myths from becoming a bad reality.
Headless is a modern commerce delivery architecture where the front and back ends are decoupled, then APIs are used to connect the storage and logic, the commerce functionality to all “heads” or presentation layers including website, social commerce and marketplaces to IoT devices, native apps and in-store kiosks – all channels through which customers interact.
This separation of the front and back end allows value to be achieved, while providing the flexibility to choose the best components a business wants and needs, such as personalization functionality and search tools. Companies therefore have the flexibility to more easily update or change these components – without affecting the rest of the stack – as the business adapts and grows. It is essentially building a set of tools specifically designed for a specific business.
Because everything is served through APIs, all front-ends can use and interact with those services in a consistent way, essentially getting the same data from the same tools. This contributes to being able to deliver more consistent and meaningful digital experiences.
This approach offers the following major benefits, not least that the architecture is less complex, so fewer resources are needed to maintain.
Continuous flexibility allows updates to go live in hours or days, not weeks or months, while allowing for continuous optimization and innovation.
Companies can realize value faster than a full platform. Improved front-end performance with load times of less than a second, even with more traffic, leading to better search engine rankings and improved customer satisfaction. Solutions can now be scaled individually with no effect on response time, reducing risk.
The flexibility to move and respond to the market and to business needs makes scaling easier.
No lengthy re-platforming or expensive upgrade cycles and each vendor and component can be managed individually. Developers have the flexibility to choose the front-end tools, frameworks, and languages in which they have experience and meet business needs.
It’s easier to deliver true and consistent omnichannel experiences by working across as many channels as you want, be it social, mobile apps, kiosks, IoT, etc., all with the same powerful data and back-end logic.
Freedom to build your own UX.
Personalize at scale using real-time data, then optimize with AI and machine learning.
Workflows are streamlined so that both technical and business teams can work in parallel, with fewer bottlenecks. Marketers are free to create using tools such as a headless CMS without depending on developers.
It’s important to remember that it’s not all or nothing with headless; you have to pick the right level to suit the business, so let’s bust some of those myths, especially since headless done right is great. Done head wrong is catastrophic. An important part of headless success is understanding what level of headless suits your business.
“It saves a lot of money”
A well-executed headless strategy can help cut costs, but if that’s the primary measure of success and the sole goal, then there may be more appropriate options. It is best not to underestimate the investment required by headless in terms of both cost and effort, nor the operational and ownership aspects of a headless architecture.
“It will be easier and faster to implement”
A headless architecture is more complex than a traditional platform because it requires control over more moving parts and more integrations between all vendors. In addition, a completely headless approach takes time; However, Headless enables a go-live of a small part of the architecture within months, seeing value relatively quickly.
“It is a panacea for better performance”
Better performance can be achieved with a headless architecture, but headless alone is no guarantee that it will be delivered. It still needs someone with a magnifying glass to go through each layer and make sure there are no bottlenecks.
“It’s too hard to manage multiple platforms and tools”
Managing more platforms and suppliers can be difficult, but the difficulty depends on what the team can manage. Teams embarking on major headless migrations need a level of digital maturity (or to leverage external resources) to not only do the initial migration, but keep everything running.
“I can run my business as it is with headless”
Headless overwhelms many companies when it comes to failing to understand the organizational and mindset change needed to realize its full potential. Companies will have to adapt their way of working, processes and probably also teams.
“It doesn’t give business teams the tools they need”
Separating the front and back ends has created some problems for business users, causing them to lose the simple editing tools they were used to and eventually lose control over the customer experience. However, there are solutions that meet this need.
Every company is different and unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach or solution. Take the time to outline what you want to achieve, why you think it’s the right approach for your business, and what the roadmap will be to get you there. To learn more about headless and the potential benefits businesses can derive from this approach, download What to Expect When Going Headless.
By: Peter Youell, EVP Technology at Astound Commerce.